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BUT HOW HAVE I FAILED SO WRETCHEDLY?"
(See paee 42 J
Henry van Dyke
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
ELIZABETH SH1PPEN GREEN
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON . M • C • M • X • I
COPYRIGHT. 19IO. 1911. BY HARPER ft BROTHERS
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
PUBLISHED OCTOBER. 1911
" BUT HOW HAVE I FAILED SO WRETCHEDLY ?" . . Frontispiece
"RELIGION IS NOT A MATTER OF SENTIMENT" . . Page 17
AMONG THE ROUNDED HILLOCKS OF AERIAL GREEN
AND GOLD Facing p. 28
"WELCOME! WILL YOU COME WITH US?" . . . Page 29
THAT FREE AIR OF PERFECT PEACE " 31
"GOD GIVE US A GOOD CHRISTMAS TOGETHER" . " 45
'HERE was an air of calm and
reserved opulence about the
Weightman mansion that spoke
not of money squandered, but
of wealth prudently applied.
Standing on a corner of the Avenue no
longer fashionable for residence, it looked
upon the swelling tide of business with an
expression of complacency and half - dis-
The house was not beautiful. There
was nothing in its straight front of chocolate-
colored stone, its heavy cornices, its broad,
staring windows of plate glass, its carved and
bronze-bedecked mahogany doors at the top of
the wide stoop, to charm the eye or fascinate
the imagination. But it was eminently re-
spectable, and in its way imposing. It seemed
to say that the glittering shops of the jewelers,
the milliners, the confectioners, the florists, the
picture-dealers, the furriers, the makers of rare
and costly antiquities, retail traders in luxuries
of life, were beneath the notice of a house that
had its foundations in the high finance, and was
built literally and figuratively in the shadow of
St. Petronius' Church.
At the same time there was something self-
pleased and congratulatory in the way in which
the mansion held its own amid the changing
neighborhood. It almost seemed to be lifted
up a little, among the tall buildings near at
hand, as if it felt the rising value of the land on
which it stood.
John Weightman was like the house into
which he had built himself thirty years ago and
in which his ideals and ambitions were in-
crusted. He was a self-made man. But in
making himself he had chosen a highly es-
teemed pattern and worked according to the
approved rules. There was nothing irregular,
questionable, flamboyant about him. He was
solid, correct, and justly successful.
His minor tastes, of course, had been care-
fully kept up to date. At the proper time,
pictures by the Barbizon masters, old English
plate and portraits, bronzes by Barye and
marbles by Rodin, Persian carpets and Chinese
porcelains, had been introduced to the mansion.
It contained a Louis Quinze reception-room, an
Empire drawing-room, a Jacobean dining-
room, and various apartments dimly reminis-
cent of the styles of furniture affected by de-
ceased monarchs. That the hallways were too
short for the historic perspective did not make
much difference. American decorative art is
capable de tout, it absorbs all periods. Of each
period Mr. Weigh tman wished to have something
of the best. He understood its value, present as
a certificate, and prospective as an investment.
It was only in the architecture of his town
house that he remained conservative, immov-
able, one might almost say Early-Victorian-
Christian. His country house at Dulwich-on-the-
Sound was a palace of the Italian Renaissance.
But in town he adhered to an architecture
which had moral associations, the Nineteenth-
Century- Brownstone epoch. It was a symbol
of his social position, his religious doctrine, and
even, in a way, of his business creed.
"A man of fixed principles," he would say,
"should express them in the looks of his house.
New York changes its domestic architecture too
rapidly. It is like divorce. It is not dignified.
I don't like it. Extravagance and fickleness
are advertised in most of these new houses.
I wish to be known for different qualities.
Dignity and prudence are the things that people
trust. Every one knows that I can afford to
live in the house that suits me. It is a guaran-
tee to the public. It inspires confidence. It
helps my influence. There is a text in the
Bible about 'a house that hath foundations. '
That is the proper kind of a mansion for a solid
Harold Weightman had often listened to his
father discoursing in this fashion on the funda-
mental principles of life, and always with a
divided mind. He admired immensely his
father's talents and the single-minded energy
with which he improved them. But in the
paternal philosophy there was something that
disquieted and oppressed the young man, and
made him gasp inwardly for fresh air and free
At times, during his college course and his
years at the law school, he had yielded to this
impulse and broken away — now toward extrav-
agance and dissipation, and then, when the
reaction came, toward a romantic devotion to
work among the poor. He had felt his father's
disapproval for both of these forms of impru-
dence; but it was never expressed in a harsh
or violent way, always with a certain tolerant
patience, such as one might show for the mis-
takes and vagaries of the very young. John
Weightman was not hasty, impulsive, incon-
siderate, even toward his own children. With
them, as with the rest of the world, he felt that
he had a reputation to maintain, a theory to
vindicate. He could afford to give them time
to see that he was absolutely right.
One of his favorite Scripture quotations was,
"Wait on the Lord." He had applied it to
real estate and to people, with profitable results.
But to human persons the sensation of being
waited for is not always agreeable. Some-
times, especially with the young, it produces a
vague restlessness, a dumb resentment, which
is increased by the fact that one can hardly
explain or justify it. Of this John Weightman
was not conscious. It lay beyond his horizon.
He did not take it into account in the plan of
life which he had made for himself and for his
family as the sharers and inheritors of his suc-
" Father plays us, " said Harold, in a moment
of irritation, to his mother, "like pieces in a
game of chess. "
" My dear, " said that lady, whose faith in her
husband was religious, " you ought not to speak
so impatiently. At least he wins the game. He
is one of the most respected men in New York.
And he is very generous, too. "
" I wish he would be more generous in letting
us be ourselves," said the young man. "He
always has something in view for us and ex-
pects to move us up to it. "
"But isn't it always for our benefit?" re-
plied his mother. "Look what a position we
have. No one can say there is any taint on our
money. There are no rumors about your
father. He has kept the laws of God and of
man. He has never made any mistakes. "
Harold got up from his chair and poked the
fire. Then he came back to the ample, well-
gowned, firm-looking lady, and sat beside her
on the sofa. He took her hand gently and
looked at the two rings — a thin band of yellow
gold, and a small solitaire diamond — which
kept their place on her third finger in modest
dignity, as if not ashamed, but rather justified,
by the splendor of the emerald which glittered
"Mother," he said, "you have a wonderful
hand. And father made no mistake when he
won you. But are you sure he has always been
so inerrant ?"
"Harold," she exclaimed, a little stiffly,
"what do you mean? His life is an open
" Oh, " he answered, " I don't mean anything
bad, mother dear. I know the governor's life
is an open book — a ledger, if you like, kept
in the best bookkeeping hand, and always
ready for inspection — every page correct, and
showing a handsome balance. But isn't it a
mistake not to allow us to make our own mis-
takes, to learn for ourselves, to live our own
lives ? Must we be always working for 'the
balance,' in one thing or another? I want
to be myself — to get outside of this everlasting,
profitable 'plan ' — to let myself go, and lose
myself for a while at least — to do the things
that I want to do, just because I want to do
"My boy, " said his mother, anxiously, "you
are not going to do anything wrong or foolish ?
You know the falsehood of that old proverb
about wild oats. "
He threw back his head and laughed. " Yes,
mother, " he answered, " I know it well enough.
But in California, you know, the wild oats are
one of the most valuable crops. They grow all
over the hillsides and keep the cattle and the
horses alive. But that wasn't what I meant —
to sow wild oats. Say to pick wild flowers, if
you like, or even to chase wild geese — to do
something that seems good to me just for its
own sake, not for the sake of wages of one kind
or another. I feel like a hired man, in the serv-
ice of this magnificent mansion — say in training
for father's place as majordomo. I'd like to
get out some way, to feel free — perhaps to do
something for others. "
The young man's voice hesitated a little.
"Yes, it sounds like cant, I know, but some-
times I feel as if I'd like to do some good in the
world, if father only wouldn't insist upon God's
putting it into the ledger. "
His mother moved uneasily, and a slight look
of bewilderment came into her face.
"Isn't that almost irreverent?" she asked.
" Surely the righteous must have their reward.
And your father is good. See how much he
gives to all the established charities, how many
things he has founded. He's always thinking
of others, and planning for them. And surely,
for us, he does everything. How well he has
planned this trip to Europe for me and the girls
— the court-presentation at Berlin, the season
on the Riviera, the visits in England with the
Plumptons and the Halverstones. He says
Lord Halverstone has the finest old house in
Sussex, pure Elizabethan, and all the old cus-
toms are kept up, too — family prayers every
morning for all the domestics. By-the-way,
you know his son Bertie, I believe. "
Harold smiled a little to himself as he an-
swered: 'Yes, I fished at Catalina Island last
June with the Honorable Ethelbert ; he's rather
a decent chap, in spite of his ingrowing mind.
But you ?— -mother, you are simply magnifi-
cent! You are father's masterpiece." The
young man leaned over to kiss her, and went up
to the Riding Club for his afternoon canter in
So it came to pass, early in December, that
Mrs. Weightman and her two daughters sailed
for Europe, on their serious pleasure trip, even
as it had been written in the book of Provi-
dence; and John Weightman, who had made the
entry, was left to pass the rest of the winter with
his son and heir in the brownstone mansion.
They were comfortable enough. The ma-
chinery of the massive establishment ran as
smoothly as a great electric dynamo. They
were busy enough, too. John Weightman's
plans and enterprises were complicated, though
his principle of action was always simple — to
get good value for every expenditure and effort.
The banking-house of which he was the chief,
the brain, the will, the absolutely controlling
hand, was so admirably organized that the de-
tails of its direction took but little time. But
the scores of other interests that radiated from
it and were dependent upon it — or perhaps it
would be more accurate to say that contrib-
uted to its solidity and success — the many
investments, industrial, political, benevolent,
reformatory, ecclesiastical, that had made the
name of Weightman well known and potent in
city, church, and state, demanded much atten-
tion and careful steering, in order that each
might produce the desired result. There were
board meetings of corporations and hospitals,
conferences in Wall Street and at Albany, con-
sultations and committee meetings in the
For a share in all this business and its ad-
juncts John Weightman had his son in training
in one of the famous law firms of the city ; for
he held that banking itself is a simple affair, the
only real difficulties of finance are on its legal
side. Meantime he wished the young man to
meet and know the men with whom he would
have to deal when he became a partner in the
house. So a couple of dinners were given in
the mansion during December, after which the
father called the son's attention to the fact that
over a hundred million dollars had sat around
But on Christmas Eve father and son were
dining together without guests, and their talk
across the broad table, glittering with silver
and cut glass, and softly lit by shaded candles,
was intimate, though a little slow at times.
The elder man was in rather a rare mood, more
expansive and confidential than usual; and,
when the coffee was brought in and they were
left alone, he talked more freely of his personal
plans and hopes than he had ever done before.
" I feel very grateful to-night, " said he, at
last ; "it must be something in the air of Christ-
mas that gives me this feeling of thankfulness
for the many divine mercies that have been
bestowed upon me. All the principles by
which I have tried to guide my life have been
justified. I have never made the value of this
salted almond by anything that the courts
would not uphold, at least in the long run, and
yet — or wouldn't it be truer to say and there-
fore? — my affairs have been wonderfully pros-
pered. There's a great deal in that text 'Hon-
esty is the best' — but no, that's not from the
Bible, after all, is it ? Wait a moment ; there is
something of that kind, I know. "
"May I light a cigar, father," said Harold,
turning away to hide a smile, "while you are
remembering the text ?"
" Yes, certainly, " answered the elder man,
rather shortly; "you know I don't dislike the
smell. But it is a wasteful, useless habit, and
therefore I have never practised it. Nothing
useless is worth while, that's my motto — noth-
ing that does not bring the reward. Oh, now I
recall the text, ' Verily I say unto you they
have their reward. ' I shall ask Doctor Snod-
grass to preach a sermon on that verse some
" Using you as an illustration ?"
" Well, not exactly that; but I could give him
some good material from my own experience to
prove the truth of Scripture. I can honestly
say that there is not one of my charities that
has not brought me in a good return, either in
the increase of influence, the building-up of
credit, or the association with substantial peo-
ple. Of course you have to be careful how you
give, in order to secure the best results — no
indiscriminate giving — no pennies in beggars'
hats ! It has been one of my principles always
to use the same kind of judgment in charities
that I use in my other affairs, and they have not
disappointed me. "
" Even the check that you put in the plate
when you take the offertory up the aisle on
"Certainly; though there the influence is
less direct ; and I must confess that I have my
doubts in regard to the collection for Foreign
Missions. That always seems to me romantic
and wasteful. You never hear from it in any
definite way. They say the missionaries have
done a good deal to open the way for trade;
perhaps — but they have also gotten us into
commercial and political difficulties. Yet I
give to them — a little — it is a matter of con-
science with me to identify myself with all the
enterprises of the Church ; it is the mainstay of
social order and a prosperous civilization. But
the best forms of benevolence are the well-
established, organized ones here at home, where
people can see them and know what they are
" You mean the ones that have a local habi-
tation and a name. "
"Yes; they offer by far the safest return,
though of course there is something gained by
contributing to general funds. A public man
can't afford to be without public spirit. But
on the whole I prefer a building, or an endow-
ment. There is a mutual advantage to a good
name and a good institution in their connection
in the public mind. It helps them both.' Re-
member that, my boy. Of course at the be-
ginning you will have to practise it in a small
way; later, you will have larger opportunities.
But try to put your gifts where they can be
identified and do good all around. You'll see
the wisdom of it in the long run. ' '
"I can see it already, sir, and the way you
describe it looks amazingly wise and prudent.
In other words, we must cast our bread on the
waters in large loaves, carried by sound ships
marked with the owner's name, so that the
return freight will be sure to come back to us. "
The father laughed, but his eyes were frown-
ing a little as if he suspected something irreve-
rent under the respectful reply.
"You put it humorously, but there's sense
in what you say. Why not ? God rules the
sea; but He expects us to follow the laws of
navigation and commerce. Why not take good
care of your bread, even when you give it
"It's not for me to say why not — and yet I
can think of cases — ' ' The young man hesitated
for a moment. His half-finished cigar had gone
out. He rose and tossed it into the fire, in
front of which he remained standing — a slender,
eager, restless young figure, with a touch of
hunger in the fine face, strangely like and unlike
the father, at whom he looked with half-wistful
"The fact is, sir," he continued, "there is
such a case in my mind now, and it is a good
deal on my heart, too. So I thought of speak-
ing to you about it to-night. You remember
Tom Rollins, the Junior who was so good to me
when I entered college?"
The father nodded. He remembered very
well indeed the annoying incidents of his son's
first escapade, and how Rollins had stood by
him and helped to avoid a public disgrace, and
how a close friendship had grown between the
two boys, so different in their fortunes.
" Yes, " he said, " I remember him. He was
a promising young man. Has he succeeded ?"
" Not exactly — that is, not yet. His busi-
ness has been going rather badly. He has a
wife and little baby, you know. And now he
has broken down, — something wrong with his
lungs. The doctor says his only chance is a
year or eighteen months in Colorado. I wish
we could help him. "
" How much would it cost ?"
" Three or four thousand perhaps, as a loan. "
"Does the doctor say he will get well ?"
"A fighting chance — the doctor says. "
The face of the older man changed subtly.
Not a line was altered, but it seemed to have a
different substance, as if it were carved out of
some firm, imperishable stuff.
'.'A fighting chance, " he said, "may do for a
speculation, but it is not a good investment.
You owe something to young Rollins. Your
grateful feeling does you credit. But don't
overwork it. Send him three or four hundred,
if you like. You'll never hear from it again,
except in the letter of thanks. But for Hea-
" Religion is not a matter of sentiment
ven's sake don't be sentimental. Religion is
not a matter of sentiment; it's a matter of
The face of the younger man changed now.
But instead of becoming fixed and graven, it
seemed to melt into life by the heat of an in-
ward fire. His nostrils quivered with quick
breath, his lips were curled.
" Principle!" he said, " You mean principal
— and interest too. Well, sir, you know best
whether that is religion or not. But if it is,
count me out, please. Tom saved me from
going to the devil, six years ago; and I'll be
damned if I don't help him to the best of my
ability now. "
John Weightman looked at his son steadily.
" Harold, " he said at last, " you know I dislike
violent language, and it never has any influence
with me. If I could honestly approve of this
proposition of yours, I'd let you have the
money; but I can't; it's extravagant and use-
less. But you have your Christmas check for a
thousand dollars coming to you to-morrow.
You can use it as you please. I never interfere
with your private affairs. "
"Thank you," said Harold. "Thank you
very much ! But there's another private affair.
I want to get away from this life, this town,
this house. It stifles me. You refused last
summer when I asked you to let me go up to
Grenf ell's Mission on the Labrador. I could go
now, at least as far as the Newfoundland Sta-
tion. Have you changed your mind?"
" Not at all. I think it is an exceedingly
foolish enterprise. It would interrupt the
career that I have marked out for you. "
"Well, then, here's a cheaper proposition.
Algy Vanderhoof wants me to join him on
his yacht with — well, with a little party — to
cruise in the West Indies. Would you prefer
" Certainly not! The Vanderhoof set is wild
and godless — I do not wish to see you keeping
company with fools who walk in the broad and
easy way that leads to perdition. "
"It is rather a hard choice, " said the young
man, with a short laugh, turning toward the
door. "According to you there's very little
difference — a fool's paradise or a fool's hell!
Well, it's one or the other for me, and I'll toss
up for it to-night: heads, I lose; tails, the devil
wins. Anyway, I'm sick of this, and I'm out of
" Harold, " said the older man (and there was
a slight tremor in his voice), "don't let us
quarrel on Christmas Eve. All I want is to
persuade you to think seriously of the duties
and responsibilities to which God has called
you — don't speak lightly of heaven and hell —
remember, there is another life. "
The young man came back and laid his hand
upon his father's shoulder.
" Father, " he said, " I want to remember it.
I try to believe in it. But somehow or other,
in this house, it all seems unreal to me. No
doubt all you say is perfectly right and wise.
I don't venture to argue against it, but I can't
feel it — that's all. If I'm to have a soul, either
to lose or to save, I must really live. Just now
neither the present nor the future means any-
thing to me. But surely we won't quarrel.
I'm very grateful to you, and we'll part
friends. Good-night, sir. "
The father held out his hand in silence. The
heavy portiere dropped noiselessly behind the
son, and he went up the wide, curving stairway
to his own room.
Meantime John Weightman sat in his carved
chair in the Jacobean dining-room. He felt
strangely old and dull. The portraits of beau-
tiful women by Lawrence and Reynolds and
Raeburn, which had often seemed like real
company to him, looked remote and uninterest-
ing. He fancied something cold and almost
unfriendly in their expression, as if they were
staring through him or beyond him. They
cared nothing for his principles, his hopes, his
disappointments, his successes; they belonged
to another world, in which he had no place. At
this he felt a vague resentment, a sense of
discomfort that he could not have defined
or explained. He was used to being con-
sidered, respected, appreciated at his full
value in every region, even in that of his own
Presently he rang for the butler, telling him
to close the house and not to sit up, and
walked with lagging steps into the long library,
where the shaded lamps were burning. His eye
fell upon the low shelves full of costly books,
but he had no desire to open them. Even the
carefully chosen pictures that hung above
them seemed to have lost their attraction. He
paused for a moment before an idyll of Corot —
a dance of nymphs around some forgotten altar
in a vaporous glade — and looked at it curiously.
There was something rapturous and serene
about the picture, a breath of spring-time in
the misty trees, a harmony of joy in the dan-
cing figures, that wakened in him a feeling of
half-pleasure and half-envy. It represented
something that he had never known in his
calculated, orderly life. He was dimly mis-
trustful of it.
"It is certainly very beautiful, " he thought,
" but it is distinctly pagan ; that altar is built to
some heathen god. It does not fit into the
scheme of a Christian life. I doubt whether it
is consistent with the tone of my house. I will
sell it this winter. It will bring three or four
times what I paid for it. That was a good
purchase, a very good bargain. "
He dropped into the revolving chair before
his big library table. It was covered with
pamphlets, and reports of the various enter-
prises in which he was interested. There was a
pile of newspaper clippings in which his name
was mentioned with praise for his sustaining
power as a pillar of finance, for his judicious be-
nevolence, for his support of wise and prudent
reform movements, for his discretion in making
permanent public gifts — "the Weightman
Charities, " one very complaisant editor called
them, as if they deserved classification as a dis-
He turned the papers over listlessly. There
was a description and a picture of the " Weight-
man Wing of the Hospital for Cripples, " of
which he was president; and an article on the
new professor in the "Weightman Chair of
Political Jurisprudence " in Jackson University,
of which he was a trustee; and an illustrated
account of the opening of the "Weightman
Grammar-School" at Dulwich-on-the-Sound,
where he had his legal residence for purposes of
This last was perhaps the most carefully
planned of all the Weightman Charities. He
desired to win the confidence and support
of his rural neighbors. It had pleased him
much when the local newspaper had spoken of
him as an ideal citizen and the logical candidate
for the Governorship of the State ; but upon the
whole it seemed to him wiser to keep out of
active politics. It would be easier and better
to put Harold into the running, to have him
sent to the Legislature from the Dulwich dis-
trict, then to the national House, then to the
Senate. Why not ? The Weightman interests
were large enough to need a direct representa-
tive and guardian at Washington.
But to-night all these plans came back to him
with dust upon them. They were dry and
crumbling like forsaken habitations. The son
upon whom his complacent ambition had rested
had turned his back upon the mansion of his
father's hopes. The break might not be final;
and in any event there would be much to live
for; the fortunes of the family would be secure.
But the zest of it all would be gone if John
Weightman had to give up the assurance of
perpetuating his name and his principles in his
son. It was a bitter disappointment, and he
felt that he had not deserved it.
He rose from the chair and paced the room
with leaden feet. For the first time in his life
his age was visibly upon him. His head was
heavy and hot, and the thoughts that rolled in
it were confused and depressing. Could it be
that he had made a mistake in the principles
of his existence? There was no argument in
what Harold had said — it was almost childish —
and yet it had shaken the elder man more
deeply than he cared to show. It held a silent
attack which touched him more than open
Suppose the end of his life were nearer than
he thought — the end must come some time —
what if it were now ? Had he not founded his
house upon a rock ? Had he not kept the com-
mandments ? Was he not, " touching the law,
blameless"? And beyond this, even if there
were some faults in his character — and all men
are sinners — yet he surely believed in the saving
doctrines of religion — the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, the life everlast-
ing. Yes, that was the true source of comfort,
after all. He would read a bit in the Bible, as
he did every night, and go to bed and to sleep.
He went back to his chair at the library table.
A strange weight of weariness rested upon him,
but he opened the book at a familiar place, and
his eyes fell upon the verse at the bottom of the
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon
That had been the text of the sermon a few
weeks before. Sleepily, heavily, he tried to fix
his mind upon it and recall it. What was it
that Doctor Snodgrass had said? Ah, yes —
that it was a mistake to pause here in reading
the verse. We must read on without a pause —
Lay not up treasures upon earth where moth and
rust do corrupt and where thieves break through
and steal — that was the true doctrine. We
may have treasures upon earth but they must
not be put into unsafe places, but into safe
places. A most comforting doctrine! He had
always followed it. Moths and rust and thieves
had done no harm to his investments.
John Weigh tman's drooping eyes turned to
the next verse, at the top of the second column.
" But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. 1 '
Now what had the Doctor said about that?
How was it to be understood — in what sense —
— treasures — in heaven ?
The book seemed to float away from him.
The light vanished. He wondered dimly if
this could be Death, coming so suddenly, so
quietly, so irresistibly. He struggled for a
moment to hold himself up, and then sank
slowly forward upon the table. His head rested
upon his folded hands. He slipped into the
How long afterward conscious life returned
to him he did not know. The blank might
have been an hour or a century. He knew
only that something had happened in the inter-
val. What it was he could not tell. He found
great difficulty in catching the thread of his
identity again. He felt that he was himself;
but the trouble was to make his connections, to
verify and place himself, to know who and
where he was.
At last it grew clear. John Weightman was
sitting on a stone, not far from a road in a
The road was not a formal highway, fenced
and graded. It was more like a great travel-
trace, worn by thousands of feet passing across
the open country in the same direction. Down
in the valley, into which he could look, the road
seemed to form itself gradually out of many
minor paths; little footways coming across the
meadows, winding tracks following along beside
the streams, faintly marked trails emerging
from the woodlands. But on the hillside the
threads were more firmly woven into one clear
band of travel, though there were still a few
dim paths joining it here and there, as if persons
had been climbing up the hill by other ways and
had turned at last to seek the road.
From the edge of the hill, where John Weight-
man sat, he could see the travelers, in little
groups or larger companies, gathering from
time to time by the different paths, and making
the ascent. They were all clothed in white,
and the form of their garments was strange to
him; it was like some old picture. They
passed him, group after group, talking quietly
together or singing; not moving in haste, but
with a certain air of eagerness and joy as if they
were glad to be on their way to an appointed
place. They did not stay to speak to him, but
they looked at him often and spoke to one an-
other as they looked ; and now and then one of
them would smile and beckon him a friendly
greeting, so that he felt they would like him to
be with them.
There was quite an interval between the
groups; and he followed each of them with
his eyes after it had passed, blanching the
long ribbon of the road for a little transient
space, rising and receding across the wide,
billowy upland, among the rounded hillocks of
aerial green and gold and lilac, until it came to
the high horizon, and stood outlined for a
moment, a tiny cloud of whiteness against
the tender blue, before it vanished over the
For a long time he sat there watching and
wondering. It was a very different world from
that in which his mansion on the Avenue was
built; and it looked strange to him, but most
real — as real as anything he had ever seen.
Presently he felt a strong desire to know what
country it was and where the people were going.
He had a faint premonition of what it must be,
but he wished to be sure. So he rose from the
stone where he was sitting, and came down
through the short grass and the lavender
flowers, toward a passing group of people. One
of them turned to meet him, and held out his
hand. It was an old man, under whose white
beard and brows John Weightman thought he
saw a suggestion of the face of the village doctor
who had cared for him years ago, when he was a
boy in the country.
AMONG THE ROUNDED HILLOCKS
OF AERIAL GREEN AND GOLD
"Welcome," said the old man. "Will you
come with us?"
" Where are you going ?"
"To the heavenly city, to see our mansions
" And who are these with you ?"
"Strangers to me, until a little while ago; I
know them better now. But you I have known
for a long time, John Weightman. Don't you
remember your old doctor?"
"Yes," he cried — "yes; your voice has not
changed at all. I'm glad indeed to see you,
Doctor McLean, especially now. All this seems
very strange to me, almost oppressive. I won-
der if — but may I go with you, do you sup-
"Surely," answered the doctor, with his
familiar smile; " it will do you good. And you
also must have a mansion in the city waiting for
you — a fine one, too — are you not looking for-
ward to it?"
"Yes," replied the other, hesitating a mo-
ment; " yes — I believe it must be so, although I
had not expected to see it so soon. But I will
go with you, and we can talk by the way. "
The two men quickly caught up with the
other people, and all went forward together
along the road. The doctor had little to tell of
his experience, for it had been a plain, hard life,
uneventfully spent for others, and the story of
the village was very simple. John Weight-
man's adventures and triumphs would have
made a far richer, more imposing history, full
of contacts with the great events and person-
ages of the time. But somehow or other he did
not care to speak much about it, walking on
that wide heavenly moorland, under that tran-
quil, sunless arch of blue, in that free air of per-
fect peace, where the light was diffused without
That free air of Perfect Peace
a shadow, as if the spirit of life in all things
There was only one person besides the doctor
in that little company whom John Weightman
had known before — an old bookkeeper who had
spent his life over a desk, carefully keeping
accounts — a rusty, dull little man, patient and
narrow, whose wife had been in the insane
asylum for twenty years and whose only child
was a crippled daughter, for whose comfort and
happiness he had toiled and sacrificed himself
without stint. It was a surprise to find him
here, as care-free and joyful as the rest.
The lives of others in the company were re-
vealed in brief glimpses as they talked together
— a mother, early widowed, who had kept her
little flock of children together and labored
through hard and heavy years to bring them up
in purity and knowledge — a Sister of Charity
who had devoted herself to the nursing of poor
folk who were being eaten to death by cancer —
a schoolmaster whose heart and life had been
poured into his quiet work of training boys for
a clear and thoughtful manhood — a medical
missionary who had given up a brilliant career
in science to take the charge of a hospital in
darkest Africa — a beautiful woman with silver
hair who had resigned her dreams of love and
marriage to care for an invalid father, and after
his death had made her life a long, steady
search for ways of doing kindnesses to others —
a poet who had walked among the crowded
tenements of the great city, bringing cheer and
comfort not only by his songs, but by his wise
and patient works of practical aid — a paralyzed
woman who had lain for thirty years upon her
bed, helpless but not hopeless, succeeding by
a miracle of courage in her single aim, never to
complain, but always to impart a bit of her joy
and peace to every one who came near her. All
these, and other persons like them, people of
little consideration in the world, but now seem-
ingly all full of great contentment and an in-
ward gladness that made their steps light, were
in the company that passed along the road,
talking together of things past and things to
come, and singing now and then with clear
voices from which the veil of age and sorrow
John Weightman joined in some of the songs
— which were familiar to him from their use in
the church — at first with a touch of hesitation,
and then more confidently. For as they went
on his sense of strangeness and fear at his new
experience diminished, and his thoughts began
to take on their habitual assurance and com-
placency. Were not these people going to the
Celestial City? And was not he in his right
place among them? He had always looked
forward to this journey. If they were sure,
each one, of finding a mansion there, could not
he be far more sure? His life had been more
fruitful than theirs. He had been a leader, a
founder of new enterprises, a pillar of church
and state, a prince of the house of Israel. Ten
talents had been given him, and he had made
them twenty. His reward would be propor-
tionate. He was glad that his companions
were going to find fit dwellings prepared for
them ; but he thought also with a certain plea-
sure of the surprise that some of them would
feel when they saw his appointed mansion.
So they came to the summit of the moorland
and looked over into the world beyond. It was
a vast, green plain, softly rounded like a shallow
vase, and circled with hills of amethyst. A
broad, shining river flowed through it, and
many silver threads of water were woven across
the green; and there were borders of tall trees
on the banks of the river, and orchards full of
roses abloom along the little streams, and in the
midst of all stood the city, white and wonderful
When the travelers saw it they were filled
with awe and joy. They passed over the little
streams and among the orchards quickly and
silently, as if they feared to speak lest the city
The wall of the city was very low, a child
could see over it, for it was made only of pre-
cious stones, which are never large. The gate
was not like a gate at all, for it was not barred
with iron or wood, but only a single pearl,
softly gleaming, marked the place where the
wall ended and the entrance lay open.
A person stood there whose face was bright
and grave, and whose robe was like the flower
of the lily, not a woven fabric, but a living
texture. "Come in," he said to the company
of travelers; "you are at your journey's end,
and your mansions are ready for you."
John Weightman hesitated, for he was
troubled by a doubt. Suppose that he was
not really, like his companions, at his journey's
end, but only transported for a little while out
of the regular course of his life into this mys-
terious experience. Suppose that, after all,
he had not really passed through the door of
death, like these others, but only through the
door of dreams, and was walking in a vision, a
living man among the blessed dead. Would it
be right for him to go with them into the hea-
venly city? Would it not be a deception, a
desecration, a deep and unforgivable offense?
The strange, confusing question had no reason
in it, as he very well knew; for if he was dream-
ing, then it was all a dream; but if his com-
panions were real, then he also was with them
in reality, and if they had died then he must
have died too. Yet he could not rid his mind
of the sense that there was a difference between
them and him, and it made him afraid to go on.
But, as he paused and turned, the Keeper of the
Gate looked straight and deep into his eyes, and
beckoned to him. Then he knew that it was
not only right but necessary that he should enter.
They passed from street to street among fair
and spacious dwellings, set in amaranthine
gardens, and adorned with an infinitely varied
beauty of divine simplicity. The mansions
differed in size, in shape, in charm: each one
seemed to have its own personal look of loveli-
ness; yet all were alike in fitness to their place,
in harmony with one another, in the addition
which each made to the singular and tranquil
splendor of the city.
As the little company came, one by one, to
the mansions which were prepared for them,
and their Guide beckoned to the happy in-
habitant to enter in and take possession, there
was a soft murmur of joy, half wonder and half
recognition ; as if the new and immortal dwell-
ing were crowned with the beauty of surprise,
lovelier and nobler than all the dreams of it
had been; and yet also as if it were touched
with the beauty of the familiar, the remem-
bered, the long-loved. One after another the
travelers were led to their own mansions, and
went in gladly; and from within, through the
open doorways, came sweet voices of welcome,
and low laughter, and song.
At last there was no one left with the Guide
but the two old friends, Doctor McLean and
John Weightman. They were standing in
front of one of the largest and fairest of the
houses, whose garden glowed softly with ra-
diant flowers. The Guide laid his hand upon
the doctor's shoulder.
" This is for you," he said. " Go in; there is
no more pain here, no more death, nor sorrow,
nor tears; for your old enemies are all con-
quered. But all the good that you have done
for others, all the help that you have given, all
the comfort that you have brought, all the
strength and love that you have bestowed upon
the suffering, are here; for we have built them
all into this mansion for you."
The good man's face was lighted with a
still joy. He clasped his old friend's hand
closely, and whispered: "How wonderful it is!
Go on, you will come to your mansion next, it
is not far away, and we shall see each other
again soon, very soon."
So he went through the garden, and into the
music within. The Keeper of the Gate turned
to John Weightman with level, quiet, searching
eyes. Then he asked, gravely:
" Where do you wish me to lead you now ?"
"To see my own mansion," answered the
man, with half-concealed excitement. " Is
there not one here for me? You may not let
me enter it yet, perhaps, for I must confess to
you that I am only — ' '
"I know," said the Keeper of the Gate — " I
know it all. You are John Weigh tman."
"Yes," said the man, more firmly than he
had spoken at first, for it gratified him that his
name was known. " Yes, I am John Weight-
man, Senior Warden of St. Petronius' Church.
I wish very much to see my mansion here, if
only for a moment. I believe that you have
one for me. Will you take me to it ?"
The Keeper of the Gate drew a little book
from the breast of his robe and turned over the
"Certainly," he said, with a curious look at
the man, " your name is here; and you shall see
your mansion, if you will follow me."
It seemed as if they must have walked miles
and miles, through the vast city, passing street
after street of houses larger and smaller, of
gardens richer and poorer, but all full of beauty
and delight. They came into a kind of suburb,
where there were many small cottages, with
plots of flowers, very lowly but bright and
fragrant. Finally they reached an open field,
bare and lonely-looking. There were two or
three little bushes in it, without flowers, and
the grass was sparse and thin. In the center
of the field was a tiny hut, hardly big enough
for a shepherd's shelter. It looked as if it had
been built of discarded things, scraps and frag-
ments of other buildings, put together with
care and pains, by some one who had tried to
make the most of cast-off material. There was
something pitiful and shamefaced about the
hut. It shrank and drooped and faded in its
barren field, and seemed to cling only by suffer-
ance to the edge of the splendid city.
"This," said the Keeper of the Gate, stand-
ing still, and speaking with a low, distinct voice
— "this is your mansion, John Weightman."
An almost intolerable shock of grieved won-
der and indignation choked the man for a
moment so that he could not say a word. Then
he turned his face away from the poor little hut
and began to remonstrate eagerly with his com-
"Surely, sir," he stammered, "you must be
in error about this. There is something wrong
— some other John Weightman — a confusion of
names — the book must be mistaken."
" There is no mistake," said the Keeper of the
Gate, very calmly; "here is your name, the
record of your title and your possessions in this
place. ' '
"But how could such a house be prepared
for me, " cried the man, with a resentful tremor
in his voice, " for me, after my long and faithful
service ? Is this a suitable mansion for one so
well known and devoted? Why is it so piti-
fully small and mean? Why have you not
built it large and fair, like the others ?"
" That is all the material you sent us."
" We have used all the material that you sent
us," repeated the Keeper of the Gate.
" Now I know that you are mistaken," cried
the man, with growing earnestness, " for all my
life long I have been doing things that must
have supplied you with material. Have you
not heard that I have built a school-house ; the
wing of a hospital; two — yes, three — small
churches, and the greater part of a large one,
the spire of St. Petro — "
The Keeper of the Gate lifted his hand.
" Wait," he said; "we know all these things.
They were not ill done. But they were all
marked and used as foundation for the name
and mansion of John Weightman in the world.
Did you not plan them for that?"
"Yes," answered the man, confused and
taken aback, " I confess that I thought often of
them in that way. Perhaps my heart was set
upon that too much. But there are other things
— my endowment for the college — my steady
and liberal contributions to all the established
charities — my support of every respectable — "
"Wait," said the Keeper of the Gate again.
" Were not all these carefully recorded on earth
where they would add to your credit? They
were not foolishly done. Verily, you have had
your reward for them. Would you be paid
"No," cried the man, with deepening dis-
may, " I dare not claim that. I acknowledge
that I considered my own interest too much.
But surely not altogether. You have said that
these things were not foolishly done. They
accomplished some good in the world. Does
not that count for something?"
" Yes," answered the Keeper of the Gate, " it
counts in the world — where you counted it.
But it does not belong to you here. We have
saved and used everything that you sent us.
This is the mansion prepared for you."
As he spoke, his look grew deeper and more
searching, like a flame of fire. John Weight-
man could not endure it. It seemed to strip
him naked and wither him. He sank to the
ground under a crushing weight of shame,
covering his eyes with his hands and cower-
ing face downward upon the stones. Dimly
through the trouble of his mind he felt their
hardness and coldness.
"Tell me, then," he cried, brokenly, "since
my life has been so little worth, how came I
here at all?"
"Through the mercy of the King" — the an-
swer was like the soft tolling of a bell.
"And how have I earned it?" he mur-
"It is never earned; it is only given," came
the clear, low reply.
"But how have I failed so wretchedly," he
asked, "in all the purpose of my life? What
could I have done better? What is it that
"Only that which is truly given," answered
the bell-like voice. " Only that good which is
done for the love of doing it. Only those plans
in which the welfare of others is the master
thought. Only those labors in which the sacri-
fice is greater than the reward. Only those
gifts in which the giver forgets himself."
The man lay silent. A great weakness, an
unspeakable despondency and humiliation were
upon him. But the face of the Keeper of
the Gate was infinitely tender as he bent over
" Think again, John Weightman. Has there
been nothing like that in your life ?"
"Nothing," he sighed. "If there ever were
such things it must have been long ago — they
were all crowded out — I have forgotten them."
There was an ineffable smile on the face of
the Keeper of the Gate, and his hand made the
sign of the cross over the bowed head as he
"These are the things that the King never
forgets; and because there were a few of them
in your life, you have a little place here."
The sense of coldness and hardness under
John Weightman's hands grew sharper and
more distinct. The feeling of bodily weariness
and lassitude weighed upon him, but there was
a calm, almost a lightness, in his heart as he
listened to the fading vibrations of the silvery
bell-tones. The chimney clock on the mantel
had just ended the last stroke of seven as he
lifted his head from the table. Thin, pale
strips of the city morning were falling into the
room through the narrow partings of the heavy
What was it that had happened to him ?
Had he been ill? Had he died and come to
life again? Or had he only slept, and had
his soul gone visiting in dreams ? He sat for
some time, motionless, not lost, but finding
himself in thought. Then he took a narrow
book from the table drawer, wrote a check,
and tore it out.
He went slowly up the stairs, knocked very
softly at his son's door, and, hearing no answer,
entered without noise. Harold was asleep, his
bare arm thrown above his head, and his eager
face relaxed in peace. His father looked a,t
him a moment with strangely shining eyes, and
then tiptoed quietly to the writing-desk, found
a pencil and a sheet of paper, and wrote rapidly :
"My dear boy, here is what you asked me
for; do what you like with it, and ask for more
if you need it. If you are still thinking of that
work with Grenfell, we'll talk it over to-day
after church. I want to know your heart
better ; and if I have made mistakes — ' '
" God give us a good Christmas together "
A slight noise made him turn his head. Har-
old was sitting up in bed with wide-open eyes.
" Father!" he cried, " is that you ?"
"Yes, my son," answered John Weightman;
"I've come back — I mean I've come up — no,
I mean come in — well, here I am, and God give
us a good Christmas together."